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「たごのうらに」 (Tago no Ura ni)
“No Matter Where I Stand”

Watching this season of Chihayafuru has become a sort of exquisite torture.

What would happen if an anime did an entire Karuta tournament in real-time? That’s what this team competition is starting to feel like. No one is a bigger fan of the buildup episode in sports anime than I am, but wow – not a single card slapped in anger this week? The difference in pacing between the first two seasons of Chihayafuru really is remarkable. In some ways it feels like a different show, but there’s no denying that the essence of what makes it great has been mostly preserved.

The thing is, as it almost always does, Chihayafuru executed this build-up episode superbly. That’s the torture – I want so much more than what we’re getting, but most of the time I love being denied it. I think anyone watching this season must be an "M". This obsessive detail over every aspect of the team matches is quite something, and given everything else we’ve seen it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both Fujisaki and to the 3rd-place match between Akashi and Hokou should be the subject of considerable attention.

With the episode covering events effectively in real-time, it affords the opportunity to focus on a wide variety of themes, and there are a lots of things happening simultaneously – in fact, one of the best parts of the episode is the way that despite the grandness of the moment, pretty much everyone on both teams’ thoughts are a mad adolescent whirlwind. Kana-chan is agonizing over her missed opportunity to play in the final – revealed to be caused by a previously undisclosed sprain to a finger on her right hand – all the more so when the Reader for the final is revealed to be the legendary Yamashiro Kyouko (real-life 6-Dan and Reader legend Keiko Serino). Arata and Shinobu are still going back and forth about the merits of team Karuta, as his "teammates" urge him to sneak in and watch Mizusawa play (Retro-kun has tipped Arata off to what’s happening). Arata, naturally, sticks to his guns – for fear of pissing off the Gods by blowing off his slap-on-the-wrist. Meanwhile he urges Shinobu – who’s been messing with the minds of Fujioka West by changing in front of them (pink Snowmaru panties!) – to go watch in his place, to show support for the teams competing.

Then, there’s Fujisaki. Their coach, Sakurazawa-sensei, is a seemingly ice-cold hard-ass who thinks nothing of taking out one of the third-years for the final because she’s more concerned with grooming the team for the future than a match she’s sure she’ll win easily. The second-year inserted into the lineup is Yamashiro Rion (granddaughter of Yamashiro Kyouko), who seems as emotionless as her coach – and whose presence in the final is deeply resented by Yamai Makoto (Saiga Mitsuki), the third-year rival for Taichi’s eyelash supremacy who may be in love with her. Nishida’s opponent is Suzuki Kanata, desperate to avenge his benched brother (Nishida, meanwhile, is desperate to avenge himself). Sacrificial lamb Tsukuba’s rival is fellow fox-eyes Ichimura Mitsuki, and Tsutomu is up against Makoto.

Perhaps the most compelling matchup, though, is Taichi facing off against his fellow captain, Emeru Ryouga. It’s a matchup that Taichi insisted on once Tsutomu revealed that he could predict the Fujisaki order with complete confidence, and it’s not coincidental that Taichi sees a strong resemblance to Arata in Ryouga – and, no doubt, an opportunity to confront his internal demons. Ryouga may share a broad physical similarity with Arata, but his personality could hardly be more different. He dismisses Rion because she’s "flat as an infant", laments that he couldn’t play Kana and "see those H-cups bouncing around" and reveals that his default plan for matches it to fantasize about Sakurazawa-sensei letting him fondle her boobs. None of this is known to Taichi of course, or would matter to him if it was – the most telling line of dialogue from him is when he thinks to himself that in team matches, he’s "not afraid of anyone – even Arata." When Ryouga takes his measure and seemingly dismisses him, though, you can see that it scores at least a glancing blow on Taichi’s confidence.

It’s hard not to see the final coming down to that match, assuming Mizusawa is going to keep it close. Chihaya is playing a less-experienced player and should win, but even if Nishida can prevail it’s hard to imagine either Tsutomu or Tsukuba having a chance against Class-A opponents. The key is that it was was Taichi who insisted that he, not Chihaya, face the opposing ace. Tsutomu has indeed predicted nearly every aspect of Fujisaki’s behavior, right down to the four third-years leaving the field to stretch during memorization time. Even if he has, as he says, "done all he can" and doesn’t expect to win his match, if Misuzawa pulls out a miracle it will surely be Tsutomu’s tireless preparations that are largely responsible.

There’s one last surprise in store – Shinobu shows up for the final, after all. If any of the Mizusawa players are affected by this it would seemingly be Chihaya, so it will be very interesting to see how she reacts. The board seemingly doesn’t favor her – only one 1-syllable card, and no "Impassioned" anywhere to be found (not to mention that she’s facing the Reader’s granddaughter). But we’re seeing a new Chihaya this year, and this one will, I think, rise above the distractions and take care of business. It’s Taichi’s match that will ultimately be the one where demons are stared down – as Retro-kun (who’s emerged as a character of real depth and sensitivity) says, Taichi longs to move up to Class A even more than he does. Taichi is all about deeply-felt desires largely unexpressed and the accumulation of frustrations, and the pressure he places on himself is probably greater than any external pressure the others are feeling.

April 19, 2013 at 11:40 pm
27 comments »
  • April 20, 2013 at 12:04 amDdadain

    Exquisite torture…

    Reminds me of when 24 (American TV Series) was new on the air… It was like a non-stop hold-your-breath moment that extended for 40 minutes… >_<

    Chihayafuru's awesome like always… just not good for people with heart problems LOL

    • April 20, 2013 at 1:18 amTSouL

      At least we can expect the next 2-3 episodes to be a glorious battle!

  • April 20, 2013 at 1:24 ammianghuei

    Tsukuba is a caring liar. (Well he was concerned about Kana Senpai’s stamina but he lied about it and Sumire know it!)He cares about glory but just isn’t too smart about hiding it.

    I have the privilege of reading the manga translated into Mandarin and will not spoil it here but that excruciating wait for the next episode is gonna be worth it! It is like any good Karuta match in Chihayafuru but even better.

    And Tsutomu with his data….just pure awesome!

    • April 20, 2013 at 8:12 amal

      in which manga episode are we right now?

      • April 20, 2013 at 2:33 pmmianghuei

        Show Spoiler ▼

    • April 20, 2013 at 10:51 pmal

      thank you

  • April 20, 2013 at 3:34 ambaseone

    DEM UNDIES!! and Rion’s yandere feelz, can’t wait for the battle.

  • April 20, 2013 at 3:39 amMi-Chan

    I am worried that Misazawa will lose and confident Misazawa will win. This episode was great. Sudo-kun was as terrifying as ever, and Retro-kun had always been the +1 to the Taichi-Arata-Chihaya trio, he has been with them and around them for so long that he could guess that Arata was here for his friends. The moment where Arata storms out of the room and stands by the door is my best scene of the episode, and the best notion of the episode is Taichi stepping out to challenge himself, something which he needs to do. Harada-sense said it “Taichi should be an A class player, why is he still in B?” I always thought the answer was because he had a hurdle to override, a personal one, which we the viewers, all know about, and all have that lump pushed down our throat (that’s one of the reasosn why I love Chihayafuru, you feel as though you’re with the charecters.) I still continue to feel bad for Shinobu who I know had seen Arata as someone like her, someone whose love for Karuta is individualistic, so I wonder what kind of things might develop for her personally.

    Thanks for your review, always appreciated! Cheers, M.

  • April 20, 2013 at 5:30 amMikako

    OMG, Shinobu’s undies. I will never be able to see her as an ice wueen again, knowing, what she’s wearing underneath.

    Well, this episode’s opponents actually have personalities, which causes me to actually be interested in seeing them play. (in a big contrast with the team: a rather non-descript Megumu-tan, a mangirl, bunch of randoms).

  • April 20, 2013 at 5:31 amMikako

    …of course ‘wueen’ was meant to be ‘queen’…

  • April 20, 2013 at 5:42 amDein

    I think Chihaya will shine this match, despite the fact that she’s facing off against a supposedly very talented player who also happens to be the reader’s granddaughter (and as such probably more familiar with her reading quirks more than anyone). Looking back to season one, to the Master match where they briefly drew a similarity between Suo and Chihaya, and how he can hear every tiny difference in Kyouko’s voice as she begins reading a card, we can assume that maybe for the first time ever, Chihaya can truly play at her full strength, capitalizing on both her speed and her hearing.

    On a side note, I’m still amazed and very happy to see how Tsutomu has become a truly irreplacable part of the team, arguably more important now than any other member. I wasn’t a big fan of his throught season 1, but the way he relentlessly keeps track of every detail fo every game and never loses his cool is pretty damn impressive. The final moment where he refused to get intimidated by a higher-ranking player before a match was also delicious. Truly a great character.

    • April 20, 2013 at 7:32 amKarutaku

      Even Chihaya calls him Komano-sensei :P

      If this was Romance of the 3 Kingdoms, he’d be Zhuge Liang

    • April 20, 2013 at 7:40 amguardian enzo

      I agree with everything you said, except I’ve been a Tsutomu fan since the beginning – and I have a season’s worth of posts to prove it!

  • April 20, 2013 at 7:42 amewok40k

    Chihaya refers to Tsutomu as Komano-sensei now!
    In a few years he can be a rival to the dreadful Sakurazawa-sensei, ice cold and seemingly as sure of success as to plan next year’s campaign already…

  • April 20, 2013 at 8:01 amal

    meh I was expecting more screenshots of the hot coach

  • April 20, 2013 at 9:24 amowq

    God! I knew it was gonna end but I was still damn pissed off when it ended there. ARGHHHH *I am not a M*

  • April 20, 2013 at 9:30 amchaos5869

    Chihayafuru the icing of my long awaited weekends~ another agonizing week before the big battle! Eventhough it’s gonna be hell of a match between Mizusawa and Fujisaki, but I also looking forward how Hokuo fare against Akashi! XD

  • April 20, 2013 at 9:38 amhwighting

    I cant help but like the fujisaki captain already. H cups are the best and his fantasy about sakurazawa sensei makes me gravitate to him even more.

  • April 20, 2013 at 9:56 amEnder905

    “Watching this season of Chihayafuru has become a sort of exquisite torture.”

    And then there’s the singles tournament right after…

    • April 20, 2013 at 10:44 amMi-Chan

      and thats when the torture will reach its peak..

  • April 20, 2013 at 3:25 pmmianghuei

    Class A – Chihaya and Nishida
    Class B – Taichi
    Class C – Kana-Chan and Tsutomu
    Class D – Tsukuba and (maybe Sumire)

    Show Spoiler ▼

  • April 20, 2013 at 5:17 pmkimboslice

    Couldn’t agree more with your opening line!

    I found myself trying not to think about how much of the episode is left and then swearing when it did.

  • April 20, 2013 at 5:39 pmSolara

    Is it next week already? OMFG, seriously, Fridays are the best. Chihayafuru has my entire attention. It’s getting ridiculously good.

  • April 20, 2013 at 10:06 pmJo

    I hate how Chihayafuru makes me feel like I want to kill myself. Like seriously, how the heck am I supposed to wait another week D: ?
    This wonderful and yet painful torture , I tell you …

    I predict that Chihaya and Nishida will win their matches. Unsure about Tsukuba and Tsutomu. ( Maybe one of them will have the dramatic luck of the draw finale ? )

    And I really don’t know how Taichi’s match is going to go. I really, really want him to win. In any case, I don’t think this will be an easy win for Fujisaki. I thought that they were going to win Mizusawa hands down last week but now I’m not so sure …

    And then there’s Hokuo against Akashi …
    I think I might have a heart attack next week.

  • April 21, 2013 at 5:24 amnaixil

    I think anyone watching this season must be an “M”

    I’m not an M.
    I’m not an M.
    I’m not an M.

    But somehow, i’m still watching this show.

    Argghhhh!! Exquisite torture indeed!

  • April 21, 2013 at 11:23 pmnagi

    GAH, I was convinced that I will not watch anime for a long time because somehow I’m getting tired of it (after continuously watching, season by season, for years).

    But here I am, unable to resist the two Chihayafuru episodes I’ve missed. And I even follow the manga! Eh, so much for that.

    I know this site is mostly dominated by Taichi fans, but you gotta give props to that wonderful scene where Arata ran for the doors and almost threw away his ideals just to watch Taichi and Chihaya. Ah, the beauty of true friendship~

  • April 27, 2013 at 5:17 amLim Lynn

    Next episode 16 is just summary before their grand final round of Hyakunin Isshu Karuta!